WORLD FILM FESTIVAL
far, A & O film critic Sylvain Richard has seen the following
films. Here are his ratings and comments, always out of 4, reserving
2.5 or more for a noteworthy film, 3.5 for an exceptional film,
4 for a classic.
Sylvain Richard's best ever films = (Babij Jar; Man Who Wipes
Mirrors; Napola; Les Choristes; The Headsman; My Nikifor; Hell
in Tangier; Camaron; Who Are You; King of the World).
Hans Van Nuffel
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Tom and his brother Lucas
both have cystic fibrosis. Lucas desperately needs and wants a
lung transplant, but when the fateful moment arrives, the operation
fails; Tom doesn't want it, despite the optimistic pep talks,
friendship and cheery attitude his hospital neighbour Xavier tries
to exert. Often they play a game together, which always ends in
the refrain "You win." In the end, all who want to win don’t,
and Tom, who doesn't care about winning, does. He gets the lung
transplant only by default: Xavier develops a fever and doctors
cannot do the lung transplant ordered for him. So Tom takes the
lung. Tom is lovely but ungrateful. In the movie, we meet his
drug dealing friends who have no respect for Xavier and even trash
his car. Yet, Tom doesn't seem to care nor does he particularly
like Xavier who really wishes to change Tom's teenage disenfranchised
way of looking at life. What makes this film a winner is the natural
mood of the movie, and the way each victim handles his fate. A
compelling movie that pulls you in with truths that are intense,
no matter their painful outcome.
Hans Van Nuffel
cystic fibrosis is like drowning from the inside out” (recent
ad). This emotionally stirring and touching film follows a young
man, Tom, who suffers from this disease that slowly destroys the
lungs. His brother, Lucas, also has it and is already permanently
hospitalized, awaiting a compatible lung for translplant. In coping
with this disease and his short life expectancy, Tom approaches
life with ‘a Devil may care’ attitude. The friends he hangs out
with are hoodlums; he drinks and he smokes. His best friend Jimmy
beats up the orderlies. The film opens with Tom being admitted
for tests. He meets Xavier who approaches cystic fibrosis optimistically
even when his girlfriend Anneleen dumps him. Xavier behaves as
an athlete. Anneleen, though she too has the disease, wants to
get pregnant but Xavier says no. One day while roaming the hospital
halls, he spots Eline, who has been placed in strict quarantine
due to an infection. They can only talk to each other on the phone
(she jokes that five jealous Italians are in her room). Despite
this they develop a romantic relationship. When Lucas receives
a compatible lung he dies during surgery. Tom, who wasn't there
for his last moments, becomes inconsolable. He breaks off with
Xavier and Eline, seeking refuge with his hoodlum buddies. Years
later, Tom and Xavier’s paths meet again, both still on the wait
list for a compatible lung. The film’s delivers a hard-hitting,
poignant message: use the time that is given wisely as that which
is wasted is lost forever. Even in the shortest time, much can
an early adolescent, has a passion for floes and blogs about them
on the Internet. For her birthday, Cedric (her father) gives her
a cell phone with a built-in video camera. She starts to capture
fragments of her life, often secretly. One day she is in the car
with her mother, Sophie. Of course she is filming her mother as
she is driving. This results in a serious accident putting Sophie
in a coma. To try and stimulate Sophie, Cedric has taken Nina’s
laptop and begins to replay these fragments that their daughter
has filmed. Family secrets best kept that way are revealed, threatening
the very fabric of the family. The film is at once conceptually
original and compelling that explores the relationship between
'best kept secrets' and modern hand-held technology.
the village of Vasilievka, there is a special herd of horses.
Legend has it that many years ago the herd miraculously appeared.
Since then the villagers have lovingly protected the herd, even
during hard times: war, drought and hunger. But the times they
are a changing, the village cannot repay the bank loan, crops
have failed and worker's salaries cannot be paid. The chairman,
seeing no other option, decides to round up the horses to sell
them to a slaughterhouse. The village shepherd wants to organize
the villagers to protest but to no avail. They see no hope. Salvation
lies with his young son Mitya Vorubiev, The Sparrow. Set in a
beautiful pastoral landscape, this is a realistic portrayal of
life in a typical modern Russian village.
Elia K. Schneinder
wishes to remain true to his art but he is under pressure to complete
his latest play “Star-Crossed Lovers.” This obliges three of the
characters (Nina, Fredrico and Vincent) to step into the real
world. A credibly surreal, Kafkaesque film where fantasy and reality
collide. I concluded the film was somewhat of an allegory on governmental
control of the arts.
THE ORPHAN GIRL WITHOUT AN ARM,
has lived in an orphanage run by nuns all of her life. She is
beautiful and full of zest for life but she is missing one arm.
Respected judge and millionaire George London has taken an interest
in her and adopts her as his protégé. He is also pursuing the
owner of a club called ‘Le Feticheur,’ whom he suspects of engaging
in prostitution and illegal trafficking. To get the judge to back
off, the owner sends his beautiful assistant with an incriminating
DVD. She never returns. A bizarre, dark comedy with many delightful
moments undermined by plot predictability.
Yuma is a strong-willed girl who lives in the crime infested Barrios
of Managua. To escape the lack of love at home and the violence
in the streets, she trains to become a professional boxer. Though
a serious film, there dialogue is tastefully pickled with humour
LOST LOVE MURDER,
take on the traditional American story with an element of pink
eiga. Shuichi Minamida confides to his friend and dentist that
he is unable to sleep, suspecting his wife is having an affair.
The dentist engages a detective agency to follow Shuichi’s wife.
The result is not what one would expect. The script is loose and
formulaic; the dialogue clichéd.
THE LAST SAFAR,
is an Islamic term that means ‘One who has travelled’ or ‘To go
on a journey.’ Amou Salah has just been forced to take retirement.
He was the projectionist for a movie house in Algiers. He equips
a truck with projection equipment; Amou (despite his age and declining
health) decides to cross Algeria from north to south. Making stops
at every community to screen a movie ranging from pure entertainment
to social issues. This turns out to be his “Last Safar.” Filmed
in documentary style, it plays like a travelogue of Algeria: no
DE LA INFANCIA (FROM CHILDHOOD),
drama with a touch of the paranormal. A teen gang member is killed
in a shootout with the police. His ghost returns to help and protect
a young boy who, along with his brother, sister and mother, is
a victim of an abusive father. The father, a manipulative thief,
has betrayed the trust of his ‘godfather.’ This is a gritty and
violent film that deftly portrays the underbelly of Mexico. The
film was hampered by poor camera work and lighting. The images
were often dark and fuzzy.
BOX: THE HAKAMADA CASE,
June 30th 1966, in the wee hours of the morning in Shimizu City
Shizuoka, the executive director of a soybean paste company along
with his wife and two children were brutally stabbed to death.
The home was subsequently set ablaze. Ex-boxer Iwao Hakamada was
arrested as the prime suspect. He pleaded innocent until three
days before his detention period was to end, whereupon he confessed.
At the trial he again pleaded innocent. Three judges presided
over the trial. Two of the said he was guilty. The third, Norimichi
Kumamoto, believed he was innocent and the confession was coerced.
Since he was the senior judge, he was forced to sign ‘guilty as
charged’ so Hakamada was put on death row. Kumamoto resigned as
judge and worked to prove Hakamada’s innocence. This well-crafted
complex drama that indicts the judicial systems and the small
mindedness of the police and judges (not as in “Law and Order”).
Far too often, in the eagerness to put a case to rest -- especially
those that are an embarrassment -- pertinent evidence is ignored
and false incriminating evidence is planted.
-- CHRISTINE CRISTINA,
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Despite Sandrelli's immeasurable talents and film credits,
this historical film does not sufficiently give us enough of the
film's real star, Cristina da Pizanno -- an amazing woman of remarkable
courage who was born in 1364. She was a political rebel, spurned
by a male dominated court, yet she remained fearless when it came
to expressing her views through her writings of poetry and philosophy.
The film focuses far too long on Charleton, an old eccentric poet/minstrel
and who was key to getting her started in her writing -- a memorable
period in her life that happened purely by accident and mutual
need. But what about hearing more of her writings?! Still, her
sufferings are vividly brought to light in the film. She was the
first female poet to write during the tumultuous struggle between
the Armagnacs and the Burgundians. Having enjoyed various comforts
of court life under Charles V, she is left destitute with two
children to support during all the political turmoil. "What doesn't
kill you makes you stronger" could well have been penned by her.
The problem with the film is there is too much focus on her suffering
and the men who assisted her with her writing. We would have liked
to have heard more of her writings. The ending was limp. Casting
Amanda Sandrelli in the lead was not a wise decision. She was
far too diminutive in her performance, though quite darling in
gait and expression.
is defined as a temporary suspension of breathing. Swimmers and
divers often use the technique of staying under water for between
four and five minutes. This pratice maintains and improves their
physical condition and can benefit breathing control and blood
oxygenation. During one such exercise, Demitris, 23, is reflecting
on his relationship with Elsa and dreaming of becoming a world-champion
swimmer. Elsa is an activist for the environment. She is with
her two colleagues on an island collecting samples from dolphins
for a toxicology report. One night Demitris receives a call saying
she has gone missing. Well scripted drama that looks into the
worlds of professional swimming and environmental activism.
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] The opening scene is hypnotic as the screen seems to stop any
feeling or sense of time. Dimitris sits motionless, deep and still
wrapped in a Le Penseur pose as he holds his breath in the apnea
technique in a huge swimming pool. He holds the record in the
European Championship, and as such, holding his breath under water
is tantamount to getting a strong start and the fastest finish.
He swims like a dolphin, yet his melancholic nature (he is emtionally
paralyzed) prevents him from feeling as free as one. When he meets
Greenpeace activist, Elsa, he is unable to imitate any of the
whale and dolphin sounds, and tells her to stop doing them. Elsa
comes to realize that Dimitris practices apnea outside the water,
too for, holding his breath and his emotions deep within his soul.
Tragic, ironic events occur that take Elsa far out to sea at night
in a reckless move to shout "Murderers" at the top of her lungs
at the dolphin fisherman. The haunting music by Nikos Kypourgos
moves like a lyrical wave into the beautiful cinematography. The
director, himself, was Greece's freestyle 50 and 100 meter freestyle
swimming champion -- an honour he held for eight straight years.
This is an elegant film that deserves to be in the festival's
First Feature World Competition category. Bafalouka just might
in the movie pool too.
-- THE BUILDING MANAGER,
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This brilliant director also stars in this slice of luckless
life where the "s" word literally hits the fan in the tenant building
Pavlos has volunteered to manage. Life is steeped in rot for Pavlos.
His marriage is on the rocks; the hired plumber walks out on the
job which needs instant attention, and his annoying well-meaning
mother has lost all receipts from the previous plumber who was
supposed to fix the toilet pipe problems. Could things get any
worse? Thankfully, hope fills the void in Pavlos' life in the
form of Gianna. She works at her uncle's flower nursery, and offers
Pavlos joy and respite from the hellish horrors he endures due
to broken pipes and people who never cooperate with him. This
film is able to make the worst moments funny. After all, we can
all identify with house/apartment issues. Leave it to the Greeks
to make the tragic shamefully comedic. Hoursoglou, a superb actor
with a hang-dog kind facem is a Greek treasure.
THE LAND OF THE ASTRONAUTS,
MacKenzie was once a successful movie composer. The title refers
to his biggest hit for which he won an award. Due to certain demons,
especially those found in a bottle, he now has to drive a limo
to make ends meet. This is a serious premise (could have been
a powerful and emotionally stirring film about the evil of substance
abuse) that was badly handled. The film was dragged down by too
many clichés, the sequence of events often illogical and it was
difficult to tell what was really happening or what was in his
-- THE LAND OF THE ASTRONAUTS,
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] You can't begin to review this film without highlighting the
brilliant acting of David Arquette and Bijou Philips. Arquette
plays Jack MacKenzie, a Hollywood composer who has taken on a
limo driving job. Unstable and a recovering alcoholic, MacKenzie
meets Erica, a femme fatale and actress who is as much an escapist
as he is. In fact, in this film, reality and fantasy merge. It's
surreal -- an out of space experience for viewer and MacKenzie
alike. He composed the music for the film, but he's a has-been,
and in his desperation to stay on track with his career, he ends
up derailing himself. In fact, the film ends on a lone railway
track, and as the train approaches with his stationary limo striding
the tracks, we find out just how devastating it is for him to
deal with the death of his daughter years before the film unfolds
and the land of the astronauts enters everyone's world, including
the viewer. This film is uniquely odd and riveting. Arquette is
amazing, as awesome as outer space itself.
Daniel Díaz Torres
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A delightful, entertaining film that is politically flavoured.
Events occur in 1962, and the revolutionary contingency rules
in Cuba. Both political camps (the traditional versus Communist
rule) are presented in the colourful array of characters -- in
particular -- Lisanka who drives the tractor in the small but
politically charged town of Veredas del Guayabal. Here we meet
the old traditionalists, such as the village priest who fears
for the future of his church, his congregation and especially
the Russians who have come to work alongside many Cubans in the
village. Eventually the Missile Crisis arrives. Set against this
turbulent period, the story nonetheless unfolds with typical Cuban
charm. Lisanka is pursued by 3 suitors, including the village
leader who resembles Che, a new arrival -- a Russian, and a long-time
friend who cannot forget his past relationship with her. But he
has no political conscience which turns her off. In the end, she
chooses no one but her beloved trusty tractor. The love and political
pull of the story are inextricably linked without plot contrivance.
Nothing about the film is preachy, fascicle nor improbable. It's
a Cuban gem with great ensemble acting. Miriel Ceja as Lisanka
LA TÊTE EN FRICHE (MY AFTERNOONS WITH MARGUERITTE) ,
English translation for friche
is ‘fallow.’ This human comedy-drama tells the story of an improbable
encounter that changes the course of a life. Germain (Gérard Depardieu)
is a simple man in his 50s who has never learned to read properly,
who spends his days in the park counting pigeons (just to make
sure they are all there), working on his vegetable garden, spending
time with his girlfriend Annete and having a drink with his friends
in a local tavern. His mother blames him for her miserable life.
Margueritte (Gisèle Casadesus) is a 95-year-old who had a successful
career as a scientist and has a passion for classic French literature
(Albert Camus). She is a learned woman and world-traveller. One
afternoon they meet in the park and immediately hit it off. This
is definitely one of Gérard Depardieu’s finest performances.
Jan Jakub Kolski
Marek has an obsessive desire to go to with his family to Venice,
the city on water. He has learned all of its streets and squares
by heart. Will his dream come true? Well, it is 1939, Hitler is
getting set to invade Poland and his father has joined the army.
Instead, Marek and his mother go to Aunt Veronica’s villa in Zaleszczykach
on the San. He builds a replica of Venice (if he can’t go to Venice
then have it come to him) when the basement floods. The film,
despite its premise, failed to strike an emotional chord, was
hampered by loose direction and an unclear ending.
Mombin from Guadeloupe is invited to visit a small African kingdom.
When he gets there it's to fulfill a prophecy. The previous king
had died leaving no male heir to the throne. so according to tradition
the elders consult the King’s skull which tells of the prophecy:
‘from a far away land shall come the new king and he shall save
the kingdom from danger and that he is to be the rightful heir.’
To consummate the coronation he must get married. The scenario
is a simplistic, even child-like, featuring aspects of fetishism.
A low-budget affair with average performances and contrived dialogue.
KOLORÁDÓ KID ,
András B. Vágvölgyi
based on the life of Béla Kreuzer, an inveterate gambler, who
in the summer of 1959 was arrested for his involvement in the
1956 Hungarian revolution and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
With proper historical persepctive, the film's choppy editing
makes it difficult to decipher the sequence of events as the film
jumps from one time period to another.
WINGS OF THE NIGHT,
thriller that deals with justice, equality and freedom. Gece was
four-years-old when in 1980 when she witnessed her parents being
murdered by Turkish police. Growing up embittered and seeking
revenge, she has arrived in Istanbul on a suicide bombing mission.
She meets Yusuf, a budding track star, and a connection develops.
This endangers the mission sd Gece now faces a difficult decision.
This film is insightful in providing details into the various
aspects of a suicide bombing mission: preparations, emotions,
risks and other concerns. The subtitles contained many serious
spelling and grammatical errors.
CITY OF LIFE,
day Dubai, one of the seven United Arab Emirates, is a global
city and a hub for business and tourism. This debut feature film
follows a group of individuals whose lives are on a violent collision
course. This collision will result in a better life for some;
for others it will be for the worse. The multiplicity of languages
often made it difficult to follow dialogue. The use of time-lapse
camera work for some scenes was annoying. The film is a mix of
kitsch and serious drama.
adult adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of the
same name. Naine (Helena Merzan), a woman in her 40s, has just
been diagnosed with a terminal cancer. She is told that in order
to survive, she has to go to the coldest valley of Norway (this
is to freeze the growth of cancer cells) and to break the heart
of a virgin boy. When she arrives at said valley, a cabin by a
lake where the caribou herds gather when they are sick, she has
the heat turned off and fills all of the sinks and bathtub to
overflow. This turns the floor of the cabin into a skating rink.
She goes into the city and picks up 14-year-old Jasper (Artur
Tedremägi). She becomes known as ‘The Snow Queen.’ This is a slow-paced,
atmospheric, moody and at times odd film. Jittery camera work
made it hard to see what was happening during certain sequences.
sweeping biopic of Confucius (Kǒng Qiū, 551 BC – 479
BC), whose profound wisdom was a beacon of light in the midst
of the chaotic darkness that predominated feudal China at the
time. High production values, commanding performances, exquisite
costumes and set design along with a profound dialogue will make
this a classic ‘must see’ film. Confucius is considered one of
the world's greatest sage of modern man and his influence is felt
IMPASSE OF DESIRE,
Block (Rémy Girard) is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He is
married to Carole (Natacha Régnier) who is much younger than him.
One day he discovers that she is cheating on him. This disturbs
him personally and professionally. In his patient, Leo Debond
(Laurent Lucas), he finds the perfect accomplice to ease his pain.
Leo is psychotic, depressed and easily convinced that what he
sees is an illusion. The exchanges between the characters of Rémy
and Laurent provide the dark humour in this thriller that doesn’t
quite live up to the standard of Hitchcock.
human drama that is a fascinating anthropological study of modern
day life on the grasslands of Mongolia; dealing with the clash
between generations. The older generation want their children
to carry on the old traditions whereas the younger are lured by
city lights and exploring the world outside. This film follows
the family of Sadi Bisi. When his daughter was 19, she fell in
love with a sheep trader and wanted to go off with him. Her mother
supported her and told her husband to allow her to love whomever
she wants. But Sadi Bisi did not believe that sheep trading was
a worthwhile or honest profession so he refused to consent Eight
years later, she is married to a drunk, has a three year old daughter,
is miserable and angry with her father. He regrets not letting
her go but his ‘fatherly’ pride doesn’t allow it. Meanwhile, his
once devoted son is lured by life in the city. Sadi Bisi offers
his most precious horse as an incentive for him to stay.
THE TRUTH ABOUT DRACULA,
Stokers novel “Dracula” is claimed. by many, to have been inspired
by the real-life 15th century Romanian ruler Vlad the Impaler.
This fascinating and entertaining documentary explores this link.
It asks Romanians of their impressions and opinions about Vlad
the Impaler, about Dracula and his effect on Romania’s tourist
industry. The alleged link with Nicolae Ceauşescu, who claimed
to have been a reincarnation of Vlad the Impaler, is also explored.
and seemingly endless genre film about a man, Allen, who is awakened
at six am on a Saturday. It is his best friend who is stuck at
the airport and his wife, Mary, has not shown up and does not
answer her phone. Allen goes to their home to check it out. Finding
her, lying dead and half naked on the floor, he gives in to temptation.
Then strange and inexplicable things begin to happen. The film
is further hampered by terrible acting and staged dialogue.
-- FLAMENCO, FLAMENCO, Carlos
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This marvellous film will appeal to especially lovers of flamenco
because it presents a colourful pastiche of flamenco dancers,
singers and instrumentalists through a series of seven exciting
short performances. Each one is different from the next. It's
thrilling to witness the astounding talents of such traditional
singers as Eva la Yerbabuena, who shows no signs of slowing down
despite decades of singing for the world. One of the most plaintive
songs, "Solba Por Bulerias," sung by the magnificent
Montse Cortes and accompanied by Diego del Morao on guitar, was
most memorable. Most intriguing was Rocio Molina, who danced flamenco
with a cigarette in her mouth. She wore a loose mesh top and slacks,
and looked like an actor from "West Side Story," but
as soon as her heels started clicking, we knew this piece particularly
embodied fusion flamenco -- that plays loose with the rules since
it has been transformed by a new generation of performers, some
who prefer tapping knuckles on a table rather than clicking their
castanets. Utterly unique, this documentary, with no talking,
is a tribute to the unstoppable evolution of flamenco. Its new
forms are full of surprises, such as when two jazz pianists suddenly
burst out in song, vocalizing emotions -- that old-age gypsy cry
of loneliness and love, and that is why "Flamenco, Flamenco"
is so physically and emotionally affecting during and after every
a fatal accident, Alvaro leaves his home village. Ten years later,
he returns to pay his last respects to his father. His brother
is still angry over what happened. His daughter, Mar, is upset
because she thinks he abandoned her and her mother. Actually the
whole village is angry with him. He wants to leave as soon as
he can but when he discovers a young woman lying dead on the road,
things become more complicated. When he reports this to the police,
the officer tells him that he needs to wait until the autopsy
report comes in. The young woman is a friend of Mar and works
in the local strip club. Alvaro suspects that she may have been
murdered, so he starts his own investigation. He uncovers a dark
past event. Engaging performances and good character development
make this an engaging mystery that reveals how grudges often betray
Andrew W. Chan
about two pianists vying to win top prize at the International
Liszt Competition in Budapest, Hungary. Their professional fate
will be decided by the outcome. The piano based selections were
outstanding but the plot was less than noteworthy and the personalities
failed to engage.
soap set in early 18th century France and Louisiana. It tells
of the ill-fated affair between Le Chevalier Des Grieux and his
lover Manon Lescault. Des Grieux is of Nobility. He forfeits his
inheritance by running off with Manon. Due to her taste for luxury,
Des Grieux's wealth quickly evaporates. Manon leaves him for a
while but their love for each other brings them back together.
This is just an average swashbuckler that is hampered by poor
editing and bad lighting.
drama based on Helsinki’s Kellokoski Mental Hospital’s most famous
patient, Anna Lappaleinen (played with incredible force by Katja
Kukkola). She is hospitalised in 1945 and diagnosed as manic depressive
with symptoms of schizophrenia. She claims she is a princess and
she does not want to be addressed by her real name. So begins
a long battle over how to treat her delusion. Do we play along
with it or treat with the conventional methods at the time: first
electro-shock treatment and later, a lobotomy? As her positive
effect on the other patients becomes known, what to do with her
becomes more problematic. The hospital eventually becomes her
royal castle and the patients her subjects. Beyond the story,
the film is an indictment on the treatment of psychiatric patients.
(short for Sebastian) is a 15-year-old boy who lives with his
mother. They are dealing with the recent death of their father/husband.
They live in a run-down housing estate in a Gothenburg (Sweden)
suburb. Eva, stressed from her overnight job and being a single
mother, often explodes at Sebbe. She also has trouble making ends
meet. Sebbe, small for his age and having no friends, is often
mercilessly bullied by a clique of boys. The boy who leads this
clique lives in the same building. When, in order to give her
son a birthday gift, Eva heedlessly steals the boy’s jacket. Sebbe
is then subjected to further humiliations. The plot line is predictable,
characters are superficial and the manner in which the stresses
are handled is unrealistic.
delightful dark comedy about two live-in maids turning the table
on their abusive employers. Toña and Paquita work for the Gonzalez-
Dubois household. He is running for a government position in Panama
on the platform that puts the people of Panama first. His wife
loves to go on shopping sprees. They have three children. The
twin girls boss the maids around. The young boy loves the maids
and treats them like aunts. Toña loves to play the weekly lottery.
They are planning to go to Miami on a weekend shopping spree.
When Paquita asks for seven weeks back pay (for her son’s education),
she is brushed off and told to wait until the family returns on
Monday. Toña and Paquita have had enough. As the family gets set
to leave for Miami, the maids decide to hold them hostage until
they receive what is rightfully theirs, Over the course of the
weekend, certain secrets are revealed.
-- BELOVED BERLIN WALL (LIEBE MAUER),
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This delightful film finds its own way to bring two star-crossed
lovers together despite the huge wall (as in Berlin) that prevents
them from being together. Sascha, a young East German border guard,
falls for Franzi, a West German woman he meets when she crosses
over the border during many of her shopping excursions (things
there are cheaper). But how can they ever be together given that
big bad wall? Where there's a will there's a way. By exchanging
identities and passports with her look-alike East German friend,
whom she meets through Sascha -- Franzi finds a way to spend a
night with her Sascha. But as things heat up, the police from
both sides of the wall decide to stop the affair and use the girls
to spy on Sascha and his friend. It's a hilarious case of East
meeting West in more ways than one. The juicy mix of impossible
love, spying and chicks on the run from the Stasi and the CIA
is enough to make the Berlin Wall come tumbling down. And that
is just what happens at the end of this quirky wonderful film.
OF THE CAT (DER GROSSE KATER),
Ganz in his usual profound in character performance) is the
president of Switzerland. He is at the peak of his political
career yet he is a critical juncture. He is seeking re-election
but his popularity in the polls is down. His eight-year old
son is in a clinic dying of cancer. To try and boost his popularity
in the polls he invites the King and Queen of Spain to pay a
Royal visit. Kater and Pfiff have been friends since childhood
but the friendship has turned sour as Kater married Pfiff’s
fiancée Marie. Pfiff is head of the secret service. He sees
an opportunity to take revenge on Kater by sabotaging the Royal
tour. This is a powerful and emotionally touching drama that
portrays the world of diplomacy protocol and loyalty; exposing
the stresses of choosing between affairs of the state or those
of the family.
THE DAY OF THE CAT (DER GROSSE
KATER), Wolfgang Panzer
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] President Kater of Bern is to receive the king and queen of Spain,
but his long-time advisor and supposed friend who heads the
Secret Service never forgave Kater for marrying a woman he himself
was engaged to. His vengeance involves a devious plan to foul
the important celebrations. He has engineered a blitz media
campaign that focuses on the queen's visit to various hospitals,
including the one where Kater's dying child is. His wife believes
her own husband planned the visit to gain sympathy from the
people. But nothing could be further from the truth. Aside from
the interesting plot, award-winning actor Bruno Ganz gains everyone's
sympathy with his superb acting.
STOLEN DREAMS (SONHOS ROUBADOS) ,
vivid depiction of the realities of day-to-day life in the favelas
of Rio de Janeiro as experienced by three young women. Jessica,
Sabrina and Dianne are best of friends. All three share the same
dreams as young woman everywhere in the world, but in order to
survive and achieve those dreams they sometimes work as prostitutes.
Jessica wants to be able to see her daughter more often and give
her a good life and enters into an arrangement with an inmate
to be his wife in return for money. Sabrina wants an MP3 and is
celebrating with her new boyfriend. Dianne wants to escape an
abusive uncle and to waltz with her father on her 15th birthday.
-- STOLEN DREAMS (SONHOS ROUBADOS),
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Three teenage women share their individual woes that come with
living in Rio de Janeiro's favela district. One is pregnant and
her boyfriend leaves her. The other, a prostitute, gets beaten
up and wants custody of her child. Still their resilience, determination,
hope and humour pull them up from the gutter into the realm where
dreams might come true. The film vividly shows the desperate circumstances
endured by far too many women in Brazil. Still, this film is not
depressing. It somehow lifts your spirits because that is the
gift women of Brazil give one another.
-- LUANDA, A FÁBRICA DA MÚSICA (LUANDA,
MUSIC FACTORY), Kiluanje Liberdade,
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] The slum of Luanda, where dust, mortar and graffiti form the
visual stimulation of the day, is nonetheless seething with vitality
and spirited neighbourhood boys. They write their own rap, and
have it recorded by Buda, the resident DJ who provides the background
beats via his computer. Despite the lack of electricity, water,
housing and air conditioners, the polyphonic kuduru music they
make which is featured in this documentary reflects the stunning
energy and imagination in the kids of Angola. Their special lingo
that allude to their families, life, even gang members end up
in a CD, thanks to Buda -- an intelligent producer who understands
that the music the kids make keeps them off the street and in
his 'studio.' One day, these kids will be 'discovered' by some
Hollywood producer. What's more, their incredible break dancing
and crumping -- Angola style -- makes the TV show, "So You Think
You Can Dance" look like child play.
latest is a buddy-road-movie that deals with the concept that
the best way to deal with grief is to return to one’s roots, nature
and religion. Other recent films have dealt with this more effectively:
“Mourning for Anna” and “The Novena.” Gilles’ (François Papineau)
five-year-old son has just died. Drowning his sorrows the night
before the funeral in a local tavern, Gilles encounters his old
friend Bob (Alexis Martin). Gilles suggests that together they
take Highway 132 (Quebec’s longest) to the Lower St Lawrence region
to rob the local banks. A well acted and directed film that has
a balanced mix of melodrama and humour especially when urban mentality
clashes with that of rural Quebec.
LA PRINCESSE DE MONTPENSIER (PRINCESS OF MONTPENSIER),
historical drama set in 16th century France during the religious
wars between the Catholics and the Huguenots (French Calvinists),
during the reign of Charles IX. A well-acted and scripted tale
of alliances sealed through marriage and the conflict between
desire versus responsibily and duty to family and king. This is
an accurate portrait of Renaissance Period both in costume and
-- LA PRINCESSE DE MONTPENSIER (PRINCESS
OF MONTPENSIER), Bertrand
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Such splendour in this historical epic without signs of contrivance.
The plot is equally captivating, and the women as pretty as the
ornate dresses they wear. The Catholics and the Protestants are
at war. Skirmishes and heavy-duty battles plaque the times and
that is the fervour which Marie de Mézières must deal with during
her loveless marriage to the Prince of Montpensier. The Prince
notes how men are attracted to her, especially Henri de Guise
who in fact proves to be unworthy of her love. While she is married
to the Prince who is often called away to battle, she is schooled
by the scholar, Chabannes who also falls in love with her. However,
he only has her best interest at heart. He was a Protestant deserter
who now serves the Catholic Prince with supreme dedication. So
many intrigues, interesting characters and political plots make
this outstanding film a joy to watch.
creative and experimental documentary that is sure to challenge
and question one’s concepts regarding gender identity. Is it ‘black
and white’ or ‘male and female’ or is there an in-between? Film
mainly features conceptual artist, performer and director Lazlo
Pearlman (b. 1972), whose shows offer audiences a 'firsthand'
transgender experience. Afraid of becoming just another 'freak'
show, Lazlo is forced to introduce novelty (the polite word) in
chronicle of 15-year-old Deborah who, in her desire to escape
the boredom of her life in the suburbs, becomes an escort. She
is introduced to her new day job by her more experienced friend
Jennifer. Deborah assumes Bo as an alias. Unprepared for this
kind of life, she spirals downward into drugs, cheap thrills and
even spends time in a juvenile detention center. This is Ella
June-Henraud’s first major role as Bo (Deborah) and she is outstanding.
Plot wise "Bo" is a formulaic and predictable thriller.
LOS CAMINOS DE LA MEMORIA (PATHS OF MEMORY),
José Luis Peñafuerte
that explores the ‘Code of Silence’ that has been prevalent in
Spain since the death of Franco 30 years ago. The shroud that
had been cast over the country has now been lifted and those who
suffered under Franco’s regime are beginning to speak out about
their experience. This film provides a more detailed picture than
Antonio P. Molero’s & Jesus Sanjurjo’s 55 min. reflection entitled
“La Fin De L’attente” (that screened at this year’s Festivalissimo).
-- SNOWMAN'S LAND,
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Walter always misses his mark as a hired hit man, but when he
teams up with Micky, another hit man who is far too trigger happy
for his own good, things literally backfire, and the two fellows
end up being targets themselves to a man named Berger whose estate
they have been hired to watch over. Not much happening in the
huge lonely enclave atop the Carpathian Mountains -- not until
Sybille, Berger's mistress arrives on the scene. She soon finds
her sexual equal in Micky, and like him, she has a fondness for
guns. In fact, insane Sybille ends up accidently firing his gun
on herself during her carnal encounter with Micky. It's one of
the most memorable moments in the movie, particularly how she
reacts to her fatal mishap. Suffice it to say, in this dark comedy/thriller
Sybille sort of had it coming to her. Despite Walter and Micky's
profession, you end up liking these two bullet bungling buffoons.
Violence, tension and humour stir the plot pot, making this movie
a truly unique viewing experience.
-- LOVE IS ALL WE NEED (NAO SE PODE
VIVER SEM AMOR), Jorge
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Ten-year-old Gabriel with 30-year-old Roseli is searching for
his dad in Rio de Janeiro. His overactive imagination proves to
have powers far beyond anyone's expectations. He never finds his
biological dad, but he does end up finding his mother -- purely
by chance. She ends up finding her own true love aside from suddenly
gaining her son Gabriel whom she instinctively knows is the son
she abandoned years ago. A robbery and happenstance bring all
the characters together, and each ends up in happy relationships
that seem most improbable -- all the more so, given the fact that
one character threatened another at gun point which in turn, twisted
the plot into an unlikely tangle of chance meetings. But then
again, truth can sometimes prove stranger than fiction. Unfortunately,
this movie needs more than love to rescue it.
-- PAPER BIRDS (PÁJAROS DE PAPEL)
, Emilio Aragón
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This wonderful film has everything to move you to tears and laughter.
Spain is under the clutches of Franco's Fascism. A vaudeville
troop comprising characters who have endured the horrors of the
war come together to try to make their compatriots laugh once
again, all the while having to feed themselves under harsh times.
A little orphan boy named Miguel joins the troupe, learning the
tricks of the trade, but he is on a quest to find his mother.
The finale of this film is heartbreaking. Deserving of the festival's
first film competition category, "Paper Birds" is an instant classic.
Furthermore, the film's witty dialogue and breathtaking ensemble
acting along with a politically subversive subplot mesh beautifully
without contrivance. You will never forget the characters in this
movie and the performances delivered by the actors who bring their
challenging roles to life.
PAPER BIRDS (PÁJAROS DE PAPEL),
remarkable, well performed and directed first feature set in post-Spanish
civil war. The film, in its precision and attention to detail,
captures every nuance to effectively reproduce the shell-shocked
atmosphere of a country that has been ravaged by a brutal civil
war and is currently under a repressive regime. Musician Jorge
(Imanol Arias), ventriloquist Enrique (Lluis Homar), Singer Rocio
(Carmen Machi) and young orphan Miguel (Roger Princep) form an
unlikely family bond. They have lost everything in the war and
are living from day to day, scrounging for food and shelter. In
performing for an itinerant vaudeville show and sharing their
joys and sorrows, they succeed in escaping their misery. But they
are suspected by the authorities (Franco's thugs), who send ‘wolves
in sheep’s clothing.’ Both the leads and supporting actors give
fine performances. Most outstanding is that of 11-year-old Roger
Princep (The Orphanage).
LE STELLE INQUIETE (SIMONE AND GUSTAVE),
of the encounter between charismatic French philosopher Simone
Weill and philosopher peasant and vineyard owner Gustav Thibon.
Along with his wife, Yvette, he invites Simone to stay on his
vineyard. He would later publish what would become her most well
known work, “Gravity and Grace,” four years after her death in
1943. The script and direction were poor; the sub paar editing
contained too many pointless and non-sequential scenes.
friends Lucas, Manu, Philippe, Jacob and Mario form a rock band
named ‘Lust’ in the 1980s. They naively believe that the power
of their music will make them even bigger than The Rolling Stones.
As they begin to be recognized, fault-lines begin to show: jealousies,
rivalries. Aspiring-rock-band-seeking-stardom is a commonly done
subject in far superior films. Director sticks to conventional
UN HOMBRE NUEVO,
portrait of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, who remains an icon of revolution
over four decades after his death. Well constructed documentary
that effectively uses archival footage and readings from his diaries
to paint an intimate picture of the man to clearly show that he
was a visionary who put humanity first. His integrity and depth
of spirit is also made apparent.
-- CHE, UN HOMBRE NUEVO,
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This compelling documentary is utterly inspiring. If you think
you know everything there is to know about this astounding human
being, take at look at this unique film and bear witness to what
12 years of research on Ernesto Guevara (Che) can yield. You will
be amazed by the breadth and brilliance of the man himself. His
soul was sweet and strong. The film reveals how Che was always
searching for insight into mankind's makeup. Photographing secret
manuscripts and documents encased in cabinets at the Bolivian
Academy of Military History, Bauer and his dedicated little team
unearth the most riveting and revealing aspects of this hero --
that is before the Bolivian government realizes it made a bureaucratic
blunder, and instantly locks the room up for good. Nonetheless,
three important manuscripts are photographed containing Che's
poetic letters of love to his wife, his philosophical writings
and his personal literary catalogues of world literature he never
ceased to read, even while spending some 16 months in Cuba's Sierra
Maestra. To hear the man's own voice and see him in action proves
his utter humility, honesty and unflinching integrity to help
others suffering from domination by foreign and local powers.
He went deep into dangerous territory all over the world; the
film painstakingly documents this with surprising detail. Despite
his adventuresome spirit, this often lonely leader had to deal
with chronic asthma. He likened it to a relationship that goes
through good and bad times. Still, he never wasted a moment in
self-pity or frivolity. By helping the oppressed, workers in the
fields and factories, the sickly, the poor, children and the elderly,
he discovered his true bent: "I am a soldier and a doctor". But,
as he evolved, he truly became a model revolutionary oozing charm,
compassion and unmistakable humanity while still exercising consistency,
leadership and humour. A poet, philosopher and care giver, he
took his skills around the world, helping fighters from other
countries overthrow megalomaniacal leaders whose self-interest
deprived the common man the right to eat and work. From South
Vietnam and Angola to Russia, China and so many other nations,
including the USA, Che thrusts his political wisdom into the hearts
and minds of those present, regardless of hostility. This lengthy
film illustrates the beautiful heart inside the child-like dreams
that possessed Che. Ernesto Guevara -- his real name -- never
swerved from his absolute belief in man's desire to be free and
kind to others. His mission was that of trying to set into place
governments that would allow such notions to happen. He believed
in the common man; his mission involved trudging for some 18 years
through jungle, mud, rivers and swamps with his own men and locals
-- strangers following his side in the hopes of unshackling their
lives from dreadful injustices. There are so many memorable events
that Che created for others, and through this remarkable film,
we come to know them, and the man a little better. One can't help
but honour this hero. At 39, Che was murdered, yet the British
photographer who came to Bolivia to take pictures of his bullet-ridden
body attests to the fact that a brilliant light emanated from
his lifeless body. Indeed the photo shows his magnificent eyes.
They appear so loving and full of wonder. How tragic that they
will never see again. Give peace a chance was his mission, and
although many did not nor still do not agree with his methods,
the film through Che's compassionate speeches explains how the
leader justifies the necessity of violence in specific circumstances.
The world lost such a beautiful spirit, and this film will convert
you to see him as such.
Dooman River forms part of the border between North Korea and
China. Many North Koreans risk their lives crossing the river
into China in order to procure food for their families; crossing
over means having to negotiate the river's brittle ice surface
as well as the armed North Korean soldiers that patrol the border.
This film is a slow-paced slice-of-life drama set in a Chinese
community and how its inhabitants deal with the day to day influx
of North Koreans. Their concerns are effectively captured with
credible performances and a tight, well directed script.
a nod to German director, Faith Akin, Kadir Balci (b. in Belgium)
examines the identity crisis facing second generation Turks born
in the Germany that welcomed their parents in the 1960s. Ediz
(36), Timur (28) and Bora (16) have buried their father in Istanbul.
They return to Belgium but their mother remains. The death of
their father forces the three brothers to find a new balance.
Ediz assumes the role of the father while Timur attempts to fulfill
his father’s dream of playing the trumpet in a brass band which
alienates his girlfriend, Sarah. Bora, with a poor choice of friends,
gets into mischief. Film is well directed and successfully exposes
the subtle prejudices that often lie just below the surface.
has emigrated from Iran and now lives in Vancouver. Her life revolves
around a passion for tango and fond memories of her childhood
with her grandmother. Her daily routine is disrupted when she
meets her next door neighbour, Leila, who is a single mother of
five-year-old daughter, Parisa. She becomes concerned when she
discovers that Leila often leaves Parisa alone in the apartment.
Good acting not helped by a somewhat contrived (melodramatic)
Marco Luca Cattaneo
Bologna street sweeper, Mario, lives with invalid octogenarian
mother. His mother is in need of constant care as she has just
suffered a stroke. Mario is a loner and spends his free time watching
porn on the Internet. One day he meets Agatha, who is a single
mother and works in a cafe. Bursting into Mario’s life with the
force of a hurricane, she awakens long dormant feelings and emotions.
This is a commonly treated subject without any element to qualify
it as noteworthy. Film contains many subtitle errors.
Filipino musical about the necessity of having to leave the family
nest and seek work abroad. Amelia goes to work as a nanny in the
Emirates for the Sheik’s new born son, Ahmed. Amelia teaches Ahmed
Filipino culture, values and language (Tagalog). The music and
dance is kitschy at the beginning and not helped by poor sound
quality. The plot was also threatening to qualify as kitsch until
the film introduced political intrique concerning the possibility
of war with a neighbouring Emirate. Overall, enjoyable and agreeably
THE MYTH OF THE AMERICAN SLEEPOVER,
David Robert Mitchell
a typical sleepy American suburb, high-school students, on the
last night of summer, go to various sleepovers. This is the last
night of freedom before the new school year begins. The film follows
four principal characters searching for love and adventure in
the context of teenhood -- its disquietude and volatility. An
ensemble cast of little known actors on a subject not commonly
(cinematically) treated. Not one performance stands out and the
film’s appeal is limited to the academically (sociology) minded.
THE MIGRANT WORKER,
an elderly Uzbek patriarch, arranges with local gangsters to travel
to Moscow to look for his grandson Aman, who has not returned
to the village. In return, he agrees to smuggle in drugs. When
he arrives, the police raid the apartment and he is arrested.
The cop on duty, seeing that he is a decorated war vet (he fought
during WWII), releases him. A Moldavian prostitute, Vika, taking
his problems to heart, agrees to help him find his grandson. What
could have been a powerful sociological study into the plight
of workers from former Soviet satellite countries is seriously
hampered by the use of a single voice-over, in Russian, while
the spoken dialogue is in Uzbek.
SWEET LITTLE LIES,
tale about how appearances can be deceiving. Ruriko and Satoshi
have been married for three years. She is a teddy bear designer
and he is an IT professional. They express love to each other
but it is without passion. Ruriko calls her husband on his cell
when he is playing video games in the next room. Inevitably this
leads to both seeking passion elsewhere. Ruriko finds it in Haruo,
an admirer of her work. Satoshi finds it in Shio, whom he meets
at a scuba diving reunion. The result is a melodramatic film that
is sterile and lacking in emotional gravitas.
RUN IF YOU CAN ,
riveting, emotionally charged drama centering on a three-way friendship.
Ben is desperate, frustrated and wheel-chair bound. Christian
is his new personal assistant. Annika is an aspiring cellist.
One morning, Annika crashes her bike when she goes through a red-light
and nearly smashes into Christian. He takes her bike to repair
it. Ben drives him to Annika’s. While parked in front of her house,
Annika knocks over a bust of a famous composer. It comes crashing
down onto Ben’s car. The three develop a close friendship. A powerful
film that examines how we face our fears and negotiate the roadblocks
life throws in our path.
THE CAMERA MURDERER ,
Robert Adrian Pejo
Heinrich and Eva spend the Easter weekend in country-side house
(on Lake Ferto-Neusiedlersee, Hungary, near Austrian border) owned
by Thomas and Sonja. Thomas, Heinrich and Eva are old friends.
What begins as a quiet relaxing weekend morphs into its opposite
when a neighbour reveals that three children from the area are
missing and that a snuff video, filmed nearby, has been circulating
on the Internet. As events unfold in the news, suspicions and
accusations implicate both Thomas and Heinrich who seem to be
hiding something. Who is the ‘camera murderer?’ is not revealed
until the final scene.
drama that focuses on a 38-year-old metalworker, Oton, who has
been working at a Sao Paulo factory for 20 years. He is married
to Camila, who is expecting (any time soon) their second child.
One day Oton finds his time card no longer works. He goes to the
human resources officer to complain that the scanner is defective,
and discovers that the factory has been bought out by a progressive
Japanese firm, that is among the first to be laid-off. In a fit
of rage, he slices his arm and signs the dismissal form in blood.
As Oton’s world collapses around him, loses complete control of
his life. A well intended but formulaic film that gets bogged
down in a predictable plot.
SWANSONG: THE STORY OF OCCI BYRNE,
‘Occi’ Byrne has been teased and bullied all of his life for not
having a father. Tormented and full of rage, when called a bastard,
Occi loses it and eventually ends up in a mental institution where
he suddenly finds himself wanting to know who his real father
is. The story unfolds through Occi’s eyes in a series of chaotic
encounters tempered with moments of tenderness and longing. Well
acted but editing was somewhat choppy.
Yano has just become a widow. Along with her sons Atsushi and
Toki, she decides to bring the ashes of her late husband home
to his parents, who live in a mountain village in the south of
Taiwan. Her father-in-law served in the Japanese army during the
war, thus she has a fascination with Japan. This is an evocative
and touching film that delves deep into ethnic and cultural values,
along with the bond that ties and unites family. It is also about
discovering a world outside of one’s own as the two boys explore
the stunning mountainous country near the village.
Dariush Mehrjui, Mehdi Karampour
short 50 min. films that explore Tehran from two opposing views.
The first, “Days of Acquaintance,” by Mehrjui, centers on a working
class family. During New Year celebrations, the roof of their
residence collapses. They decide to go to Tehran but the last
bus has just left, except for one: a private tour bus of senior
citizens. They are welcomed on and are treated to a day of the
fabled Iranian hospitality. An awe-inspiring tour, which includes
many of Tehran’s modern and historical landmark buildings, ensues.
“The Last String,” by Karampour, is about a co-ed rock band trying
to get permission for a public performance. The narrative unfolds
from the point-of-view of each band member.
THE CÉZANNE AFFAIR,
Rossetti returns home to his say goodbye to his dying father,
Ernesto, who whispers something into his son's ear that awakens
a forgotten memory. In the late 60s, Ernesto was the stationmaster
but he had an ambition to be a famous painter. He was to give
an exposition of his paintings that would be billed as a tribute
to his inspiration, Paul Cézanne. As a center piece, Cézanne’s
famous self-portrait would be displayed (actually a reproduction
painted by Ernesto). This is a comedy that is not particularly
funny, that suffers from poor editing and weak character development.
Beautiful cinematography and the set design faithfully recreate
the Italy of the late 60s.
For 2008 Montreal World Film Festival Ratings, click HERE.
For 2009 Montreal World Film Festival Ratings, click HERE.